Nick Kyrgios’ heartfelt tribute to ’emotional’ Novak Djokovic after exhibition clash

Nick Kyrgios has lauded Novak Djokovic on the Serbian’s return to Melbourne Park, urging tennis fans to appreciate greats such as he and Rafael Nadal while they are still around.

Kyrgios and Djokovic concluded their preparations for the Australian Open with a fast four-themed two-set hitout in front of a packed Rod Laver Arena crowd, sharing a set apiece.

More importantly, both men emerged from the contest unscathed, with Kyrgios showing his ankle was healed, while Djokovic’s taped-up hamstring did not stop him from covering the court in exceptional fashion.

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Following the match, Kyrgios paid tribute to the 21-time grand slam champion.

“It’s so important to have him around,” he said on Nine’s coverage.

“Obviously one of the greats has already left us last year in Roger (Federer), and I don’t think we actually know how special these guys are to our sport.

“So every time Novak is around at these events I want to beat him even though I can’t at a grand slam.

“It’s very important to have him around because he’s one of the most important for our sport.”

Djokovic entered the arena where he won his first ever grand slam title to a rousing ovation from the capacity crowd, leaving the Serbian champ shaken.

“I feel a bit emotional right now, to be honest,” he said upon his entry.

“I was hoping to come back to this court, so thank you all guys for coming out tonight for a great cause.”

Thursday’s release of the main draw was met with excitement and anticipation when Djokovic and Kyrgios were pitted on the same side as potential quarter final opponents, but the Serbian revealed that the blockbuster clash hadn’t been on the Aussie’s radar.

“I have to be honest, I think most of the guys are studying the draw pretty seriously, but I think you have to take it one match at a time,” he said.

“I know Nick and I are in the same part of the draw, he didn’t know that by the way.

“Before the match I told him and he was like, ‘I didn’t see the draw’, and I was like, ‘We are in the same quarters’, but it’s OK, it’s fine.”

Last year, Kyrgios revealed plans to retire immediately if he won his first singles grand slam title, and the Aussie confirmed those plans hadn’t changed.

“It’s a lot of training and a lot of work,” he said of a two-week grand slam campaign.

“I just want to be able to eat whatever I want to eat, drink whatever I want to drink and then just relax. It’s a hard lifestyle.

“The dedication that these guys show day in, day out, I did a bit of that last year and had a good year to show the world that I’m still one of the best.

“I’m going to try and do it this year and hopefully I can do it, but it’ll be hard.”

Kyrgios and Djokovic will both kick off their Australian Open campaigns on Tuesday, with the Aussie facing Roman Safiullin, while the Serb faces Roberto Carballes Baena.

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